The Chinese Communist Party (CPC) was founded on July 1, 1921 in Shanghai. On July 31, 1921, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was founded in Cape Town.
Both parties were “vanguard” parties in terms of Marxism/Leninism, that is they saw themselves as being the leaders of the working class and would strive to raise their living standards. That is why the CPC and CPSA, now called the South African Communist Party (SACP), both aim to improve the lot of the mass of the proletariat by providing free education, free health care, food security and low-cost housing.
Unlike the few thousand members of the SACP, the CPC membership is just short of 92 million or 6.5% of the population of China.
The CPC aims to be able to help the working class by taking control over all aspects of life in China in pursuit of the “Greater Good”. This is why in South Africa we have rules that limit our ability to take matters into our hands for the benefit of the mass such as traffic rules and other rules preventing anti-social behaviour such as violence.
Unlike South Africa, the CPC has also instituted a “social credit” system that rewards good behaviour and punishes bad behaviour. That is why the CPC amendments to the party constitution in 2017, specifically stated in the chapter of general principles: “the party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavour in every part of the country”.
When the CPC was founded in 1921 a decade after the Qing dynasty had been toppled by Sun Yat-sen, China at that time was riven by feuding warlords, who extracted high taxes and tributes from peasants who were deeply mired in poverty. By contrast, the China of 2021 has managed to eliminate extreme poverty and is an emerging superpower. It has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and the world's second-largest economy.
The centennial celebrations are “an opportunity to draw continuity across the party and across Chinese civilisation,” said Peter Mattis, a senior fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “
Especially since the 19th party congress in 2017, Xi Jinping has been talking about Chinese solutions and providing Chinese contributions to humanity. This is an opportunity to speak of a Chinese project, not just a party project — but they can say the party is the one who achieved this.”
That is why the CPC has been at pains to spread the wealth more evenly with a big push over the past few years to alleviate poverty, by funding local infrastructure and incentives for businesses to invest in China's inland region from the more affluent coastal provinces.
At its core, the CPC’s decision-making process is based on the Marxist-Leninist idea of “democratic centralism”. This means that “democratic and open discussion” on policies within the party followed by a voting process where the majority rules. The result is submitted to a higher-level party committee for approval. Once a decision is made, party members must uphold the agreed-on policies, with the minority subordinate to the majority, lower-level organisations to their superiors, individuals to their party organisations and local party committees to the Central Committee.
From its founding a century ago, the CPC has seen itself as the mouthpiece and protector of the proletariat. Its mission was to fight against class distinctions, overthrow the bourgeoisie through a revolution and collectivise production so that food security could be guaranteed.
Blue-collar workers and agriculture workers such as farmers, herders and fishermen still make up almost a third of its membership, but their share is shrinking amid a push by the CPC leaders to modernise the party and ensure that the party continues for another century by encouraging a younger, more highly educated pool of future leaders since the 1980s.
This is why the share of workers has shrunk to 34.8% of party membership, from 38.8% in 2021, while the share of professional, technical and managerial people has grown to 34.4% from 31,6%. In 2019, more than a third of the CPC’s members were under 40, while by comparison only 13% of the UK’s Conservative Party and 18% of the UK’s Labour Party were below 40.
* Helmo Preuss is an Economist at Forecaster Ecosa.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.